Anyway, Jem eventually arrived, speaking no English but with no discernible Spanish either. When we met in the park, B told me how almost everything about domestic life confused the hell out of him. He would stand on the sofa staring at his paws and swaying about as if he were on a boat, and lift a pie clean out of your hand. From this, she concluded that he had been raised not by humans, but by other dogs. Then we talked for ages about his stance and gait, the way his rolling shoulders gave him a beautiful wildness, but also made him look a little bit like a CGI terror robot from The Maze Runner , and how his stocky, slightly bowed legs were reminiscent of a young Dennis Waterman.
You have to understand, we had not seen each other since March. Loads of stuff, apart from Jem, has happened since then: I have moved house, she has failed to finish her MA, many people have annoyed us, and we, in turn, have annoyed many others, events have occurred in the Labour party that typically we would enjoy fighting over. But we would get five yards into some other conversation – “I think the thing is about the Corbyn situation …” – then swerve off into: “Oh, what a shame they’ve had his nuts off. Would have been cool to cross him with something even bigger, like a rottweiler.” We were hypothetically genetically engineering a dog with no testicles, and that was still more interesting than every other thing.
Socialize your pet. Meeting new people and other pets improves the confidence of your pet. Plus, having extra playmates will help relieve some of your pet’s built-up energy.
It is different for cat people. They also want to talk about their animals the whole damn time but recognising, as they must, that there is no deeper meaning to a cat, they veer into the surreal. “My cat thinks he’s Baby Yoda.” “My cat looks like Hitler.” I am in favour of this content, by the way. It is also surprising how many cats do look like Hitler. Dog people lack the humility to accept that this is just a beautiful, affectionate creature and it is perfectly reasonable to love it. It should be enough, but it isn’t. It must have a soul, because it is my soulmate.
By around the fourth lap of the park, we were talking about philosophy. Sort of. In fact, we were talking about Donna Haraway, the feminist historian of consciousness who is also into dog agility big time, and has achieved what neither I nor B have managed, to work her true passion – agile dogs – into her intellectual life. In her book Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs , People and Significant Otherness, Haraway argues that this relationship holds the key to the future of environmentalism. It is a completely attuned way of being – you have to bend yourself to what the dog is thinking, it has to bend itself to you – and it creates an entirely new conception of empathy because you are, in the end, still two different species. If we could only transmute that approach to the natural world as a whole, we might finally be halfway decent stewards. Or maybe stewardship is too patriarchal a concept; truthfully, only B has read this book.
Did you hear that? Sound frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz). The higher the Hertz, the higher-pitched the sound. Dogs hear best at 8,000 Hz, while humans hear best at around 2,000 Hz.
All I could bring to the table was a very close reading of a book my grandfather gave me when he was dying. I met him for the second and final time when I was 17, at his flat, which I had never been to, and he asked me what I wanted to drink. I could not even begin to guess what he might have in, so I asked for a gin and tonic. He handed me a tumbler, saying irascibly: “You can have some tonic when you’ve made room in the glass”, as it were my fault there was enough Gordon’s to form a meniscus and if I wanted some mixer, I really had to pull my socks up. “Now,” he continued: “Would you like to choose some of my books?” By the time I got to his bookshelves, pausing to break his toilet seat by standing on it to have a fag out of the window, I was so pissed that I could only dimly make out words, and I came back with My Dog Tulip: Life With an Alsatian, which, it turns out, is a stone-cold classic of the genre, perhaps the best book ever written about loving alsatians.
You are surely wondering what happened to my own dog, while I was on this dog walk, talking about dog feelings and dog books and one dog’s unknowable past. I had left Romeo at home because he is bad with other dogs, and Jem, a perro sociable y amigable, deserves a whole lot better than to come to London and be confronted with dog-Begbie . Still, he is my soulmate, so he must have a soul. Just not a very nice one.
Make him part of the family. Pets, especially dogs, need companionship. They are traditionally pack creatures and need the warmth and love that comes with living indoors with their family.